ICIAM 2011: AWM Marks 40th Anniversary with Embedded Meeting at ICIAM

November 15, 2011

Cammey Cole Manning and Jill Pipher

The Association for Women in Mathematics celebrated its 40th anniversary with an embedded meeting at ICIAM 2011 in Vancouver. In addition to the AWM workshop for recent PhDs and graduate students traditionally held at the SIAM annual meeting, the embedded meeting featured special presentations, minisymposia, and panel discussions. The widely attended AWM sessions were held on Monday and Tuesday, July 18 and 19. AWM sponsors and supporters were present at many of these activities---and we seized the opportunity to promote the recently established AWM–SIAM reciprocal membership agreement. AWM received substantial grant funding for the ICIAM events from the U.S. Office of Naval Research and the U.S. Department of Energy, as well as support from the Canada-based Centre de Recherches Mathématiques and the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences.

"Women at the Forefront of Applied Mathematics," the first session of the embedded meeting, celebrated the accomplishments of women in applied and computational mathematics. The session organizers, AWM executive director Maeve McCarthy (Murray State University) and Gerda de Vries (University of Alberta), had invited four outstanding speakers. Leah Edelstein-Keshet (University of British Columbia) spoke about computational issues involved in understanding how signaling proteins regulate the motility of cells. Joyce McLaughlin (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) discussed experiments, models, and mathematical issues that arise in imaging the biomechanical properties of a medical palpation exam. Jane Wang (Cornell University) presented her work on the aerodynamics of insect flight and her progress in deducing control algorithms from specific observed behaviors. Margaret Wright (Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences) surveyed convergence results for non-derivative methods in optimization problems and discussed her recent results for the well-known (and little understood) Nelder–Mead simplex (see Barry Cipra's article in this issue).

Karen Devine (Sandia National Laboratories), Carol Woodward (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory), Andrea Bertozzi (University of California, Los Angeles), and Maria Emelianenko (George Mason University) organized the AWM Workshop for Women Graduate Students and Recent PhDs, highlights of which follow.

Each workshop participant had been paired with a mentor, and the workshop luncheon on Monday gave the graduate students and postdocs their first opportunity to meet with their mentors. In many cases, the members of a pair had research areas in common. Mentors shared their experiences, offered career advice, and, following their mentees' talks, provided feedback.

Lunch and informal discussions among participants and guests preceded remarks by the luncheon speaker, Brenda Dietrich, vice president of business analytics and mathematical sciences at IBM. Dietrich emphasized the evolving importance of mathematics, and the new respect it enjoys in corporate life. She described the successful ways in which mathematics is being used in industry, stressed the importance of communication skills (as well as computational skills) in industrial mathematics, and conveyed the challenge and excitement provided by a constant stream of new problems. Invited guests included SIAM president Nick Trefethen.

Following the luncheon, AWM hosted a panel discussion on leadership, with panelists Nalini Joshi (University of Sydney), Barbara Keyfitz (Ohio State University), Rachel Kuske (University of British Columbia), Beatrice Pelloni (University of Reading, UK), and Margaret Wright. Maeve McCarthy and Joyce McLaughlin chaired the panel and moderated the discussion.

Three speakers shared both personal and professional information about their choice of careers in a minisymposium, Opportunities Beyond Academia, at the end of the first day. Kristyn Maschhoff, who has worked at Tera Computer and Cray Inc., is now a principal engineer at Cray, and the only woman currently in that role. She emphasized the importance of programming in her job, and encouraged those considering careers in industrial mathematics to acquire proficiency in programming and to keep up with emerging languages.

Cynthia Phillips, a distinguished member of the technical staff and senior scientist at Sandia National Laboratories, described specific applications on which she has worked, emphasizing those in which she has been part of interdisciplinary teams of researchers. A mathematician working in a lab, she said, should be excited about tackling a variety of questions and interested in developing good writing and communication skills. Randall LeVeque of the University of Washington presented the perspective of an academic applied mathematician. He maintains interdisciplinary connections with other academic departments, as well as with such labs as NASA Langley, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory, and the NOAA Center for Tsunami Research. He discussed the importance of building relationships with people in other disciplines in order to discover fruitful problems of mutual interest. The minisymposium concluded with a panel discussion.

The Sonia Kovalevsky Prize Lecture, traditionally given at the SIAM annual meeting, was part of the ICIAM program this year. In the lecture, Susanne Brenner of Louisiana State University discussed numerical convergence schemes for solutions to partial differential equations. The moral of her story was that "hidden errors in numerical schemes" (even in the presence of convergence) can be detected by testing them on solutions with the correct singularities.

Two minisymposia on Tuesday were devoted to research talks by seven recent PhDs: Jung-Ha An, California State University, Stanislaus; Aycil Cesmelioglu, Institute for Mathematics and its Applications, University of Minnesota; Raya Horesh, IMA; Giao T. Huynh, Oakland University; Karin Leiderman, Duke University; Joyce Lin, University of Utah; and Rachael Miller Neilan, Louisiana State University. The AWM meeting concluded on Tuesday evening with poster presentations by ten graduate students at a joint poster session with ICIAM. (For a student perspective on ICIAM by one of the ten, see Olga Trichtchenko's article.)
Those who served throughout the workshop as mentors to the recent PhDs and graduate students were key to the success of this event, and we would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation to them.

Cammey Cole Manning is a professor of mathematics at Meredith College and the AWM workshop director. Jill Pipher, director of ICERM and a professor of mathematics at Brown University, is president of AWM.



Association for Women in Mathematics president Jill Pipher (left) joined SIAM president Nick Trefethen in congratulating Susanne Brenner, the 2011 AWM–SIAM Sonia Kovalevsky lecturer. Brenner gave the lecture, titled "A Cautionary Tale in Numerical PDEs," on the first evening of ICIAM 2011. Photo by VisionPhoto.ca.


Programming skills, good communication skills, and an interest in interdisciplinary collaborations were among the traits judged important by speakers in the minisymposium Opportunities Beyond Academia, which ended with a panel discussion. Shown here (seated, from left) are session participants Kristyn Maschhoff, Cray Inc.; Cynthia Phillips, Sandia National Laboratories; and Randall LeVeque, University of Washington; Carol Woodward of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, at the podium, was an organizer of the AWM workshop.


Biomathematics was a shared focus for three recent PhDs who spoke at one of the AWM minisymposia: from left, Karin Leiderman (Duke University), Giao T. Huynh (Oakland University), and Joyce Lin (University of Utah),



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